These headlines epitomize Trump's presidency in free fall

These headlines epitomize Trump's presidency in free fall
President Donald J. Trump joined by senior White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway, Senator Mitt Romney, R-Utah, and Secretary of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar attends a White House Listening Session on Youth Vaping and Electronic Cigarette Epidemic Friday, Nov. 22, 2019, in the Cabinet Room of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian)

When I awoke Thursday morning on the West Coast—already three hours in a news hole—I grabbed my phone to take a quick mobile tour of the headlines. But what I realized as I scrolled through them was how devastating nearly every one of those headlines was for Donald Trump’s reelection, not to mention the American people.


The first headline atop the New York Times digital app read, "How the virus won." Ouch. So very true, but just vicious framing for the man who has presided over the complete collapse of America's erstwhile global dominance, perhaps best illustrated by Trump’s almost unimaginable coronavirus debacle. So much so that the European Union is moving toward banning American travelers due to U.S. coronavirus failures as its member nations reopen their economies on July 1.

Directly below that headline was another winner for Trump: “U.S. sets record for daily new cases as virus surges in South and West.” The day before, some 38,000 new infections were reported nationwide, "the largest one-day total since the start of the pandemic," wrote the Times. But by Friday, the U.S. would set yet another new infections record, surpassing 40,000 before the day even came to a close.

I finally decided to grab some screen caps in case the headlines seemed blogworthy later (unfortunately, these images will also reveal the oversized font setting that helps soothe my tired eyes).

Screenshot of top NYT headlines on coronavirus.

The Times then moved on to the unemployment figures with the headline: “U.S. Jobless claims top 1 million for the 14th straight week.” To be precise, some 1.5 million people filed new claims for state unemployment last week. Whatever magical powers Trump supposedly had over the economy have clearly met their kryptonite. Not that he ever had really had the Midas touch, but just in case anyone was still under that illusion—nope. And based on Trump’s unending failure to contain the coronavirus, the economic news will almost certainly get worse before it gets better.

After taking time out to relay the dismal economic news, coronavirus claimed the spotlight again: “Arizona 'overwhelmed' with demand for tests as U.S. system shows strain.” Testing, the Times said, "remains fragmented, as in the early days of the pandemic." So in effect, the testing the Trump continually reassured the country he and his administration would be providing through public-private partnerships and the like, never materialized. And now that abject failure in leadership is coming back to haunt states like Arizona, Texas, and Florida experiencing infection surges.

Screenshot of top NYT headlines on unemployment and coronavirus.

Next up: “Cases are soaring in Texas. But closing down is a 'last option.'” The subhead informed readers that Gov. Greg Abbott had been "eager to be part of President Trump's push to restart the economy." Subtext: Abbott followed Trump's lead and now it's backfiring—so badly, in fact, that by week's end, Abbott had ordered the closure of all bars in the state and tightened the restrictions on restaurant dining.

The first and really only top headline that didn't bear a specific relationship to Trump came next: “Decades-old Soviet studies hint at coronavirus strategy.” A couple of married Moscow virologists apparently tested a vaccine on their children back in the '50s and made a potentially significant discovery. Yikes! Let's just leave that one right there for now.

Screenshot of top NYT headlines on coronavirus.

Finally, the Times moved to a "Race In America" section, which was bound to go south for Trump, the self-declared "law and order" candidate running a so-last-century political play. It started with an exposé on "How the Philadelphia police tear-gassed a group of trapped protesters" on June 1, the same day Trump gassed peaceful protesters out front of the White House ahead of his disastrous Bible photo op. Just one more reminder that Trump presided over a cascading trickle-down effect of police brutality and intimidation that has rained down on peaceful protesters ever since.

But one reminder of which side Trump is on is never enough. "Tucson police in turmoil after Latino man dies in custody," read the next headline. Remember in 2017 when Trump encouraged police to rough up suspects they’ve taken into custody? After video surfaced of the death of a handcuffed man who was tragically having a mental health episode back in April, the Tucson police chief offered to resign after three other officers had already done so before the video went public.

And finally: “Noose incident puts spotlight on racism in NASCAR.” Frankly, nuff said. That headline rounded out a devastating series of top headlines on the Times app covering the coronavirus, the economy, and racial justice and police brutality that, excepting one small deviation, were all an indictment of Trump's so-called leadership.

Screenshot of top headlines on police brutality.

It's days like those, where virtually every bad-news headline could end with "because Trump" that have led to a presidency in free fall—low approvals, soaring disapprovals, double-digit deficits in national polling, abysmal battleground polling, and once solidly red states eyeing the blue column. It underscores this Civiqs data asking respondents whether the country is headed in the right or wrong direction. Note that the two lines roughly track with Trump’s approval and disapproval rating right up until the coronavirus national emergency declaration.

As I reported earlier this month, Republican strategists and lawmakers have been clinging to a single data point for salvation—the fact that Trump almost always tests better than Biden with voters on the economy. Scott Reed, senior political strategist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, imagined what a Trump comeback might look like. “By Labor Day, if we have a growing economy and a vaccination for first responders, Trump is going to have some real momentum,” Reed said.

What became perfectly clear this week is that Trump’s rush to reopen the economy without putting any of the obvious safeguards in place (e.g. testing and tracing) has now ensured the coronavirus will inflict maximal damage on both the nation’s public health and its economy.

At his inauguration, Trump declared, “This American carnage stops right here, right now.” It’s almost as if Trump knew right from the start that maximal carnage was America’s destiny under his stewardship, and he was gaslighting us in advance. But no amount of gaslighting will ever be capable of covering up the ruins of Trump’s boundless incapacity to lead.

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